Ingvar Kamprad is a Swedish entrepreneur, well-known around the globe for founding the furniture retailer, IKEA. His business plan has helped families find high-quality and inexpensive furniture in thirty-eight countries worldwide. Now the wealthiest businessman in Europe, Kamprad has provided employment to thousands of people and continues to thrive with his company.
Kamprad also struggles with dyslexia, and has used his disability to establish a international business that thrives on customer satisfaction. Kamprad developed a simple system to help consumers find their preferred furniture efficiently. Kamprad is a true example of perseverance and innovation leading to wealth and success.
Kamprad was born on March 30, 1926, in Pjätteryd, Sweden. He grew up on his family’s farm, Elmtaryd, and developed his skills by selling various wares to his neighbors. Kamprad started with purchasing matches wholesale from the city of Stockholm and peddling them to nearby families. From matches came seeds, decorations, fish, pens, and pencils; all sold for a profit. His father was so proud of young Kamprad’s success that he rewarded him with a hefty investment when the boy turned 17.
With a new investor, Kamprad developed the idea of selling bigger and better merchandise. He called his company IKEA, after his initials, the farm; and the village that he lived in, Agunnaryd. Kamprad continued his trips to Stockholm, where he bought jewelry and more expensive items in bulk to resell to his neighbors. His clientele expanded rapidly with the release of a mail-order catalog, and Kamprad enlisted the help of the local milkman to deliver purchases to his customers.
In 1947, he began selling furniture and eventually concentrated on these sales alone. Five years later, Kamprad opened his first showroom for IKEA furniture where customers could pick out their home furnishings personally. The success of IKEA was so great that Kamprad continued to open stores in Europe and various major countries around the globe. He published a book in 1974, titled ‘A Testament of a Furniture Dealer’, of his manifesto and personal journey to make it as a businessman. He states his philosophy for his staff as “We rely on our strength and our will!” In 1999, Kamprad teamed up with journalist, Bertil Torekull, to write his autobiography, ‘Leading by Design: The IKEA Story.’
IKEA’s claim to fame is their unassembled furniture, marketed with detailed instructions. This technique allows the customer to pay a lower price without the added cost of shipping and handling. Kamprad developed this ingenious idea after overhearing a table designer and handler exclaim, “Let’s pull off the legs and put them underneath!” IKEA began producing and marketing their furniture in this new way, establishing the company as a leading manufacturer and retailer.
Another innovative concept of IKEA was inspired by Kamprad’s struggle with dyslexia. He found trouble using the codes for identifying specific types of furniture; and chose to use men and women’s names, Swedish islands, and Norweigan places instead. These labels have made certain names of furniture synonymous with IKEA.
Though Kamprad has established a name in business and earned a mass amount of wealth, he still lives modestly in Epalinges, Switzerland. Kamprad visits his stores regularly for an inexpensive meal at one of IKEA’s famous cafes. He recycles his tea bags and drives a Volvo from 1993. Kamprad encourages his employees to use both sides of writing paper, and constantly brainstorms ways to reduce the cost of IKEA’s products.
Although afflicted with dyslexia, Kamprad has established an empire with millions of satisfied customers. He contunies to provide low-cost furniture for struggling families and serves as a role model for young hopefuls worldwide.